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Ianus' comment should be studied by many of us, and respected.

Reader comment on item: Britain's Encounter with Islamic Law
in response to reader comment: Monotheism's structural intolerance

Submitted by Doc Tater (United States), Mar 14, 2008 at 19:09

Ianus,

I am humbled by your considerate manner in approaching this dialogue, and cannot match either your commitment to scholarship or energy. I assure you, my friend, that you haven't alienated me. I would welcome you at my side in any battle against the Muslims who would swallow up the world and plunge it back into a dark age of ignorance and brutality, and I believe I could probably trust you to protect my back, if it came to that. I also suspect we could live comfortably as neighbors, in a state of peace.

If everyone participating in the current global conflict dove into it with your reverence for fact and willingness to make it a competition of ideas and reason, there would be much more cause for optimism.

I can't disagree with anything you say. Your arguments are tight. There's just this one little thing…

I'm not sure the Christian monotheism you are describing is the Judeo-Christian culture that I'm talking about. I'm not talking about doctrinal Christianity or theology, and certainly not about the doctrinal Christianity of the time of Constantine, nor the military-political Christianity of Constantine's time. I don't believe Christianity is the same thing as Christian doctrine, though many Christians do, or say they do. I think that Christianity is cultural, a cultural phenomenon, and that the reality of Judeo-Christian culture is what Christians and Jews do and think and feel, instead of what tedious doctrine-huggers say they should do.

At the same time, I acknowledge the centuries of violence, millions of dead, and countless treasures destroyed by people with a monotheistic religion as their moral and spiritual compass. I'll be the first to admit that monotheists have excelled at stupidity and brutality, (but not always, not inevitably), and I don't think that monotheistic religion dooms one to stupid brutality, especially if there is flexibility in the interpretation of doctrine. Monotheistic religion is like a chain saw, powerful and dangerous, capable of doing great harm, but quite wonderful in the right hands when used with discipline, restraint, and skill.

Yes, there is an exclusivity and an intolerance that the scriptures justify. Jews and Christians have spent centuries taking the edge off that blade, learning to fear the damage that it can cause, in the process of interpreting the scriptures and modifying doctrines.

If, by your definitions, I'm wrong, then I can live with that. I think you may be discussing one thing, and I'm talking about something else, and we may be disagreeing about apples and oranges. I may be simply failing to use the right words. I get to this web site late in the day. I appreciate your taking the time to correct me, if I'm in error, and I will go back and read your essay several more times.

I think you may be amused by the following line of argument, if not swayed: If, today, a million monotheists live side-by-side with a million polytheists, who in turn live side-by-side with a million atheists, do some of them suddenly cease to exist because their beliefs are mutually incompatible, logically inconsistent, or contradictory? Of course not. If they live side-by-side, does it matter that there is a "contradiction between monotheism and polytheism which is in principle an irreconcilable antithesis"? I'd say it matters less, and that their living side-by-side matters more. I'd say that there is, where they live, a reconciliation that defies and overpowers logical antithises. I'd say that the reconciliation occurs in the culture that enables them to live side-by-side, and that it is a very human and very beautiful reconciliation.

I mean no insult in challenging your thesis, and would never knowingly alienate an allie. I intend no harm or injury. It's ifficult to do this without speaking face to face, because nuances of expression are lost when bare words are used, without a voice or facial expressions or gestures.

Maybe, by your definitions, I'm being excessively relaxed about my definitions. Maybe I'm glossing over some contradictions that shouldn't be glossed over. If that's the case, I apologize and cry, "Mea culpa. " I hope we can continue to be friends and allies even if you don't think I'm right about some of what I say. I think we can do that, now, whether we could have done that in ancient Greece or not, whether we could have done that in Constantinople 1500 years ago or not, and that's what we should be celebrating and protecting.

Doc

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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Mark my comment as a response to Ianus' comment should be studied by many of us, and respected. by Doc Tater

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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